Three Things to Consider When Buying a First Aid Kit

Choosing the right first aid kit for the outdoors depends on your activity, group size and duration of your trip. Here are three smart things to think about to make your buying decision easier.

a dirty green first aid bag
A good first aid kit is cheap insurance against accidents. Carrying one could save your life.Milan Degraeve/unsplash

When it comes to heading outdoors, a first aid kit is the one item everyone should carry. From simple things, like cut sand scratches, to more serious problems, a first aid kit can truly be a lifesaver. Purchasing a pre-made kit makes a lot of sense because they eliminate the chance that you might forget something essential. Here are three tips that will help you match the right kit to your needs.

Personal Kits

First Aid Only 299 Piece All-Purpose First Aid Kit
Everyone should carry an individual kit like this in their pack to handle minor aches and pains. This one's clear plastic liner keeps items organized and easy to find in an emergency.First Aid Only

Everyone should carry one of these—even on day hikes. They weigh almost nothing, but they carry the essentials to handle minor aches and pains along the way. In addition to the essentials provided in the kit—make sure you include a topical anti-bacterial ointment, aspirin or Advil, and tweezers and sunscreen. And everyone should carry whatever prescription medications they need.

Match the Activity, Group Size and Risks

DeftGet First Aid Kit
Waterproof kits like this are perfect for those headed out canoeing or kayaking. This 163-piece kit has everything for handling groups and it's great for car campers, too.DeftGet

The kit you carry will depend on the activity and the number of people in your party.

  • Activity: If you're heading on a canoe or kayak trip, you'll want to be sure your first-aid kit is waterproof. Look for waterproof kits or place your kit inside a plastic freezer bag then slide it into a dry bag to ensure your medical supplies stay dry.
  • Group size: Scout leaders or families traveling together in a larger group will want to make sure that someone carries a "group" first aid kit to handle a wider scope of problems that might arise. These kits build on the basics in your personal kit by adding more (and different sized) bandages. They're also include items like tweezers, a thermometer and splints. Bigger kits also make sense for car campers or for use at home where weight isn't a factor.
  • Assess The Risks: What might you encounter in the area you're heading to? Are their people in your party that have specific allergies where items like an EpiPen may be needed? Is there a high risk of ticks being in the area? If so, you'll want to purchase a kit that includes tweezers or a tick-removal tool. If there's a good chance you may encounter poison ivy or sumac, make sure the kit includes some kind of treatment for treating anyone who gets exposed.

Trip Duration

Be Smart Get Prepared 100 Piece First Aid Kit
Waterproof kits like this are perfect for those headed out canoeing or kayaking. This 163-piece kit has everything for handling groups and it's great for car campers, too.Be Smart Get Prepared

The size of your kit will also depend on how long your trip outdoors will be. The longer you'll be out there, the more items you should carry because your odds of encountering some kind of first-aid will be needed. Larger, "expedition" kits have all of the basics found in smaller kits you might use for an overnight plus things like a low-reading thermometer for assessing core temperature in hypothermia victims, many more bandage and medication options, and splints.